RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810
Review The Torch 9810 is the second of RIM’s recent hat-trick of BlackBerry devices to hit the shelves. Indeed, you might have heard there are five, but currently only three models will be made available in the UK.
Shining examples? RIM's BlackBerry Torch 9810
The Bold 9900 was a straight-up Qwerty device but this one hides its keyboard in a slide, and the upcoming Torch 9860 will be a full-screen, all-touch model. The 9810 is the follow-up to the Torch 9800 from last year and on the face of it, not a lot’s changed.
As is the way with sliders, it’s a little on the chunky side at 62 x 111 x 15mm and no lightweight at 161g. It retains the same shape, but the uniform black plastic of the older model has been replaced with a metallic makeover – sleek brushed aluminium around the edges with a ridged, tactile back cover.
Sliderphones always end up being a little bit thicker than most
The 3.2in touch screen dominates the front, and below it is a line of buttons for call start and stop, menu and back, as well as an optical trackpad. Like all recent BlackBerrys you can adjust the sensitivity of the trackpad to suit your own style.
On one side are volume buttons and 3.5mm headphone jack – tut-tut, it’s always better to have this on top – and the standard BB programmable ‘convenience key’ that defaults to camera. On the other side is a micro USB power/sync port with pressure points for screen lock and mute on top.
Besides the cosmetic change, the first serious difference with the 9810 becomes clear when you switch it on. The resolution of the capacitive touch screen has leapt from 480 x 360 to 640 x 480 and while it’s not quite razor-esque, it’s still eye-catchingly sharp, and much better than its predecessor.
The 5Mp camera also captures 720p video
The screen slides upwards easily with a thumb press to reveal the 35-key Qwerty keyboard. As with its other handsets, RIM has this area well and truly covered and, despite the small size of the keys, their unique angled design makes them exceptionally easy to operate.
When the keyboard is being used, the accelerometer won’t flip the screen from portrait to landscape mode, so you’ll need to slide the keyboard in when you’re browsing the web, using the camera or watching movies.
The 9810 follows the Bold 9900 in featuring the latest BlackBerry 7 OS, which is very much an incremental update rather than a reimagining of the modus operandi. The icons look a little different and it’s a bit quicker and easier to move through the menus – there are four shortcut icons at the bottom of the screen and you can brush these to the side to show others in different sections: All, Favourites, Media, Downloads and Frequent.
Also on board is the new BlackBerry Universal Voice Search. This worked fine, although it doesn’t have as many features as Google’s version for Android, which offers multiple interpretations of your spoken words.
The Torch 9810 also features the latest version of RIM's saving grace, the ever-popular BlackBerry messaging service, BBM6, which now lets you text your mates while you’re in the midst of using some of the apps. Oddly though, this version doesn’t include the NFC (Near Field Communication) that was present on last month’s Bold 9900 – not that you’ll miss it.
The single core 1.2GHz processor is plenty fast, with twice as much power as the original Torch. It may not have a dual-core badge – so there’s no option for full HD video recording – or the highest level of mobile gaming, but apps open quickly, browsing is fast and things nip along nicely even when you’re multi-tasking. What’s not to like? OK, so there's no Flash support on the browser, but it's pretty slick whether on Wi-Fi or HSDPA.
The 5Mp camera includes an exceptionally bright LED flash, autofocus, image stabilisation, geotagging, face detection and a variety of scene modes, including macro. In terms of spec it’s mostly the same as the last version, but while it would have been nice to see some advance, the camera’s still no slouch, starting up quickly and delivering decent quality pics, even when you’re on the move.
The Torch 9810 also now offers 720p HD video recording and this looks crisp and smooth for the most part, with autofocus and image stabilisation carried over from the stills camera.
As for movie viewing, the video player will stretch the image to fit the screen – you’ll lose some of the edging, but it doesn’t look too distorted and is often worth it for the sake of a more close-up view.
The music player includes a link to Amazon’s Music Store (89p per track, on average) and a hub for music-related apps, as well as a 12-setting equaliser. As with other BlackBerrys, there’s no FM radio, but there is 8GB of storage on tap, plus the ability to add another 32GB using a microSD card.
There’s a full version of Documents To Go on board and you can add more apps from BlackBerry AppWorld, which may look a tad anaemic compared to the rude health of Android’s Market or Apple’s App Store, but at least covers the basics. So you’ll find a fair few productivity-related apps and the most popular social networking accoutrements along with a few games. But if you’re an app addict, BB isn’t the way to go at the moment.
The BlackBerry Desktop Software takes a while to fire up but allows you to sync your media as well as your messages and contacts. It’s fairly basic fare, with a workmanlike interface, but gets the job done without fuss – HD videos that can take a few minutes with some phones, only took a few seconds here.
The battery stayed the course, delivering a little over a day of consistent use. And if you're inclined to use this handset as a phone from time to time, the call quality proved to be respectable, with voices rendered well by the on-board loudspeaker.
Some useful enhancements on-board, but not exactly innovative
The Torch 9810's Qwerty keyboard is fine, so there are no surprises there for dyed-in-the-wool BB Messenger fans. Moreover, those already sold on the platform will find the Torch delivers the best of both worlds with its upgraded higher res display being a decent size for browsing, watching movies and gaming too. Indeed, this combination, along with a fairly nifty performance may well win RIM some new friends along the way. ®
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